What is a Remix

In Music, to remix a song is to create a different version of the song.

Remixing is done by changing elements of the song. To show these elements, let’s use Daft Punk’s song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger as an example. Here is a YouTube link if you don’t know the song:

 

The lyrics in a part of the song go like this:

Work It Harder
Make It Better
Do It Faster
Makes Us stronger
More Than Ever Hour After
Our Work Is Never Over

Remix the Lyrics

This is a very popular technique with DJs and Producers. If you take the lyrics above and remix them, it could sound like this:

Work it Faster
Make it Harder
Do it Stronger
Makes us Better
Our Work is Hour After
More Than Never Ever Over

By doing this, the meaning of the song is completely changed from the original. It presents fresh material to listeners who know the song.

The challenge of remixing in this way is that a DJ (or Producer) has to have the vocals separated from the track in order to mix up the lyrics. This is possible since a lot of singles are distributed with an instrumental version and an Acapella (vocal) version of the track.

Remix

Remix the Harmony

Another popular method is to remix the harmonic content. This effectively removes the existing harmonic progressions in a song and replaces it with a new progression. By doing this, the remixed version of the track has a totally different feel. To understand harmony, check out our video How to Produce Music.

Remix the Melody

Remixing the Melody is a lot like remixing the lyrics. In fact, it can be very effective if both melody and lyrics are remixed together. By doing this, it’s possible to derive a completely different ‘tune’ to the song.

Remix Other Elements

Dynamics – A change in the volume of a part. In remix terms, it could mean to even remove a part of the song.
Equalization – Limit or expand certain frequencies. For remixing, a popular technique is to make vocals sound like they are coming from a telephone. This is done by narrowing down the frequency range of the vocals to lower than the vocal range is in.
Pitch – Changing the pitch of a vocal, melody or any other aspect up or down.
Tempo – Change the speed at which the music is played at.

Remix by Adding or Removing Elements

Nothing stops you from removing specific elements (or parts of it) like a vocal or a melody. Stripping down a Melody line to half of what it originally was leaves stuff for the imagination. It creates anticipation. The same it true for adding your own elements. If you feel that adding a beat, or replacing the snare works better for your remix, by all means do it!

Experimenting with adding and removing melodic elements can bring out a fun twist to the sounds. If you know the scale of the song you’re working with, create your own melody based on the melody already present in the song. Then replace the melody of the song and you have a brand new, shiny remix!

How to Remix

By creative use of each of the components we’ve outlined above, a remixer can create a completely different version of the song. Unfortunately there isn’t a ‘How to’ guide to remixing, but, there is a method to help you create the best remixes.

We recommend that you first change a single element of the track. For example, say you choose to remix the lyrics as we described above. Have your friends listen to it. Get feedback – lots of it. Once this is done, change another element and get more feedback. Was the previous version better?

By using this process, you will begin to see a trend in the way listeners appreciate a remix. You’ll know if they prefer a certain flavor of the track and what elements they are attracted to the most. This process will help you develop your own style of remixes – which is what differentiates musicians.

The key to remixing is to create a version of the track the way your listeners would like to hear it. By going to the listener for feedback and modifying your remix over and over again, you can create awesome remixes. Always try to get honest feedback. A friend that wants to spare your feelings will not spare the track.

Other mixed thoughts

As we think deeper about the term ‘Remix’, we’d like to propose a new term that reduces some ambiguity.

The term ‘Mix’ in music is the sonic placement of sounds. You might hear a HiHat panned a little to the left and pushed to the rear of the sound canvas. Maybe the Snare drum panned a little to the right but closer to the listener. This is what Mixing is all about. However, in Remixing, it’s possible as we mentioned to chop lyrics up and reposition them – which has nothing to do with the sonic placement of the sound on the sound canvas. When this particular method is used (chop and mix), or when the remixing of Melody is used, we’d like to call it Re-arrangement.

Though it’s more correct to call it Re-arrangement, we don’t think it will catch on. It just doesn't sound as cool as remix.